How to: Survive a Quarter-Life Crisis

As those of us in our twenties start to enter the “real world,” many are struck with what is called a “Quarter-Life Crisis.” The quarter-life crisis is marked by that sinking feeling you get when you think about getting a job after graduating college, or you’ve already graduated and your job isn’t what you thought it would be. The feeling that you have during a quarter-life crisis can be best explained using the following GIF.


A lot of people characterize a quarter-life crisis as a hallmark of the ever-whiny Millennial generation, but references to a quarter-life crisis have been recorded as early as the 1967 film “The Graduate” and really seems to be an issue that people experience when they are overwhelmed with desires to work hard and see success come of that, and worry that no matter how hard they try, it will all be for nothing. Some from older generations think that this is whiny or even laziness, and they tell us to buck up and try our best, and if you aren’t successful, you aren’t trying hard enough. Understand that this is bullshit, which brings me to my first piece of advice.

Realize that it’s okay to have a quarter-life crisis.

People are going to tell you that you’re silly, too worried, need to just get over it, etc. Don’t listen to them. For the most part, a quarter-life crisis is evidence that you care about your future–as well as the future’s of any children/furbabies you might have– and just want to do well. It’s easy for older adults to tell you “Oh just try hard and you’ll be fine,” but most people my age saw the economic crisis (Great Recession) in 2008. Most of us were in middle or high school when this happened, and we noticed when our parents and friend’s parents took a hit financially. We saw talented, hard-working people lose their jobs. So, you have legitimate reasons for being worried. So recognize that your fears aren’t irrational, but also understand…

Something will always go wrong.

For every generation, there’s always been something, whether it’s an economic collapse, war, or having to fight for your own civil rights. There has always been a large, negative event that has happened to stress out people in their twenties. They wonder if this event will affect their whole life, or worry that they’ll lose their home because of it, but…

Humans are really good at finding their footing in bad situations.

For every shitty event that happens, there’s always going to be a way for life to get better. People are really resourceful, and that means you are too, so regardless of whatever shitstorm hits our generation, know that you’ll probably be okay. Still,

Try your best.

Knowing that life is going to hit you doesn’t mean that it’s all for nothing, or that none of it really matters. If you try your best and shit still hits the fan, you know that you did your best, even if it feels like you could’ve done something differently.

So if you’re going through a quarter-life crisis, there are a few ways you can be proactive.

  1.  Give your area of interest/degree/job everything you’ve got. Work hard while also taking care of yourself (because you can’t work hard if you burn out).
  2. Never stop learning. Constantly improve your skill set and try to learn new things all the time.
  3. Pay attention. Learn how the economy works enough to understand if it’s about to get really bad. Pay attention to how countries are interacting with each other, and learn what a war might mean for you and your family. Pay attention to the signs that shit will get real, that way when shit isn’t getting real, you know you’re okay.
  4. Explain to older generations that you’re not just a whiny, entitled little kid. “Look Debra, it was your generation that ruined the housing market and melted our ice caps, all while earning a living wage. I have a job (wherein minimum wage has not been adjusted for inflation), school, and an unpaid internship so I can advance in my field.”
  5. Remember what it’s like. All too often, we have to have the aforementioned conversation with the Debra’s of the world because they forget that even with a better economy, Debra still wanted to succeed to make the world better for her kids, and likely had the same anxieties and insecurities that you have now. So when you’re in your 50s and a 22 year old is freaking out, tell them it’s just human nature, and that they’ll be alright.

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